Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Happy Birthday, Dear Family
There were six of us in my immediate family (2 parents, 4 kids), yet, against the odds, we had three family birthdays in a four-day stretch in late February. My sister Vicki’s birthday came first and is today (Feb. 24). Vicki was the youngest child in the family, and with three older brothers she learned to tough it out to secure her place in the family hierarchy. As the only girl, she enjoyed a special status, adored by her parents and her brothers alike. Vicki and I have always been close, and even moreso in adulthood. She started college at the University of Michigan while I was in my last year there before leaving for Cincinnati. She and George moved to Toronto after their graduation and then to Santa Cruz where Vicki works as a marriage/family therapist and where they raised their three kids, Jacob, Rhys, and Abra. I was happy to get a birthday call from my sweet sister. We had lots of laughs as always, and we’re hopeful of getting together during the summer.
Our mother, Doris, L., was born on Feb. 25, 2010, in Omaha. She and Vic met while in college and married in 1932 in the midst of the Great Depression. They had their four kids between 1937 and 1947. This was an era of traditional, highly differentiated gender roles, and Doris had primary responsibility for household tasks and rearing the children. Nowadays four kids seem like a lot, and it wasn’t an easy business. Doris’ frequent maxim was, “Straighten up and fly right.” The first image that comes to my mind was Doris sitting on the lawn chair, watching her children swim in the river. We went swimming every day through the summer, and I don’t think there was ever an occasion where our mother wasn’t there, ready to rescue us if needed. Another image that pops into my mind is watching from the living room window as Doris crawled out on the ice to rescue our Irish Setter Mike who had fallen through into the freezing river. Mothers are unbelievably essential.
My younger brother Steven’s birthday was on February 27. Each year we discussed whether it was better or worse to have the last birthday in the trio. On the one hand, it could mean that you were of lesser importance. On the other hand, it could mean that your birthday was the culmination and high point of the week. Steve, of course, preferred the latter interpretation, and that could well have beenb true. Steve inherited our mother’s propensity for fun and sociability. He was an excellent athlete, an excellent dancer, and an all-around good friend. Steve was in law school in Detroit as we were finishing up grad school in Ann Arbor, and then he and Margie moved to Seattle where they raised their three kids: Jennifer, Greg, and Jason. We miss him very much.
Peter and I had summer birthdays – Peter on June 9 and mine on July 21. We felt a little lonely, being left out of the big February extravaganza, but summer was definitely a preferred time for outdoor birthday parties. In adulthood Peter was better about remembering birthdays than anyone else in the family. My dad’s birthday was on Nov. 5, but he never wanted anybody to make a fuss about it. My family’s often on my mind, but late February is particularly nostalgic. We’ve lost so many of our immediate and extended family members over the years, but everyone is still vividly present in our memories. We had more fine times together than even seems fair.
-Gayle C-L (2-24): David, Nice to see you're back in action!
Thank you for that!... Love those memories::)) XX G
-Linda C (2-24): What sweet pictures and thoughts, love this.